Michigan lawmakers lead bipartisan group protesting Iraqi deportations

    An ICE officer
    Wikimedia Commons
    Updated 4:18 p.m.

    A group of lawmakers led by Michigan’s U.S. Reps. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and John Moolenaar (R-Midland) called on the President Donald Trump administration this Friday to stop the scheduled deportation of almost 1,500 Iraqi citizens across the country.

    More than 100 of those Iraqis are Michigan residents, a disproportionate number reflected in that almost the entire Michigan U.S. House delegation co-signed the letter, with only U.S. Reps. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden), and Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) refraining.

    Reps. Levin and Stevens
    Andy Levin and Haley Stevens at the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit | Nick Manes

    “This is about fairness and it is about humanity,” Levin said in a press release. “It would be unconscionable for [Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)] to move forward with mass detention and deportation of Iraqis — many of whom are Chaldean Christians who would face religious persecution in Iraq.

    “For these reasons, it is paramount that the Administration abstain from mass deportation and instead allow each case to be evaluated on its own merits.”

    A court ruling allowing the deportations came down from the U.S. Sixth Court of Appeals earlier this week, saying that a judge who had previously stopped them lacked the authority to do so. That ruling paves the way for deportations to begin as soon as Tuesday.

    Rep. John Moolenaar
    John Moolenaar

    Michigan has the highest population of Chaldean Christians, not only in the United States, but in the world outside of Iraq. Levin’s press release said he will “hold a public event tomorrow in Michigan’s 9th Congressional District with affected families in the Chaldean community calling on ICE to give Iraqi nationals time to re-open their cases in immigration court.”

    Levin’s family has long advocated on the behalf of Michigan’s Chaldean population. His father, former U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Southfield), invited the wife of a detained Michigan Iraqi to President Donald Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address. The congressman’s uncle, former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Detroit), huddled with Chaldean community leaders and representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union to strategize after the 2017 roundup by ICE that led to the currently planned deportations.

    Levin announced Friday afternoon that he, along with U.S. Reps. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), will host a press conference on Saturday with some of the Iraqi families facing deportation. The conference will be held at the Chaldean Community Foundation in Sterling Heights.*

    This story has been updated with the announcement of Saturday’s press conference.

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson covers local government, education, health care and the social safety net, and LGBTQ issues. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington, and before that covered local politics in Chicago. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He enjoys film, the Detroit Pistons and his cat. He once competed in the National Spelling Bee, but was eliminated before any potential ESPN appearances.

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